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More BrewDog Ridiculousness…

This Thanksgiving morning here in the United States brings news of more extreme beer ridiculousness from across the Atlantic. Usually a level-headed place that only gets its knickers in a bunch when discussing gravity taps, cask breathers, and other real ale intricacies, the British beer scene is dealing with news that the BrewDog Brewery of Scotland has brewed what it claims to be the world’s strongest beer. I caught the story from beer writer Pete Brown’s website, and while I agree with the first line, I can’t say as much about the second.

Slag ’em or praise ’em, you just can’t stop talking about ’em.

But it’s nice to be able to talk about Brew Dog for the right reasons again. Today, the brewery announces the launch of Tactical Nuclear Penguin – at 32%, the strongest beer on the planet, beating previous record holder Sam Adams Utopias by 7%.

BrewDog certainly has a knack for public relations and marketing, born in large part out of its close following of the Stone Brewing Company’s playbook. Of the brewery’s beers I have previously written:

The irony here is, for all of the bravado and boastfulness, BrewDog actually makes very simple, approachable and traditional beers that do not push the envelope of taste or flavor.

So with news of a 32-percent alcohol beer, piggybacking upon the controversy caused by its Tokyo, a 12-percent imperial stout, and its low-alcohol Nanny State, co-founder and lead spinmeister James Watt is beginning to sound a little like the comedian Lenny Bruce, who late in his career spent all of his time on stage railing against censorship instead of telling jokes. Watt himself has invited much of the controversy, including the inexplicable filing of a complaint against its own beer (the aforementioned Tokyo) with the Portman Group, a trade organization representing beverage alcohol producers and brewers in Britain. This act of self-immolation led to the banning of the product from public sale.

While these efforts inevitably raise the brewery’s profile and public awareness of the brand, and perhaps it is even what is required to awaken a staid and conservative British marketplace, it certainly detracts from the brewery’s products and comes across as a manufactured marketing ploy.

So with this mini-jeremiad aside, I imagine the folks at the Boston Beer Company, maker of Utopias, the reigning holder of the world’s strongest beer crown, may have something to say about BrewDog’s claims to that title. Lab analysis and reports will follow and I imagine that the claimed 32-percent ABV TNP will reveal itself to be either a lesser fraction of that amount or mainly comprised of alcohol gained from whisky cask aging, on top of the freeze and water removal process .

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9 thoughts on “More BrewDog Ridiculousness…

  1. I think we have to take into account the context of Scots humour as well as Scots / UK political cultural climate to appreciate the marketing program BrewDog is rolling out. I am not suggesting we can’t “get it” or that North American views are irrelevant. But I receive these beers and their promotion, however, with an ear tuned to the early Billy Connolly comedy records obtained on my family trips. A 17 minute joke on airplane poo or Jesus being crucified in Glasgow were easily sustained due to my people’s love of “well over the top” and even cornball humour. Also, it has to be taken in the context of the lunacy of the Portman Group’s existence.

    Frankly, I find Sam Adam’s Utopia marketing equally weird with its needy cloying associations with the haute combined with the false self-aggrandizement of the name. As Mr. Oliver might be paraphrased, claims to the strongest beer are about as interesting as claims to have the saltiest food. And I bet we can both find 100 beers we would each easily prefer to both these insane bombs.

    1. Hey Alan and happy Thanksgiving to, er, um, you? I’m a big Billy Connolly fan and have spent some time in Scotland so I hope I would not be tone deaf to that particular form of silliness/playfulness. I never got that from BrewDog’s efforts but perhaps I’m missing it. And I generally agree regarding the Portman Group and its power. I’m just not seeing BrewDog’s particular angle here in anything other than a ridiculous PR stunt.

      As to SA, you’ll get no arguments from me…

  2. It’s a math problem. Not your error, but it doesn’t exactly beat Uptopias by 7%. The difference between 25 and 32 is 7, sure. It’s much more than 7% stronger.

  3. The BrewDog boys mention a small German brewery that held the record previously with a 31% Eisbock, not Utopia. As it happens, that same little Franconian brewery is just about to launch a 39.44% ABV Bock. So, strongest beer, for a while 🙂

    So, just wondering, is it the ABV that you find ridiculous, or the PR and hype surrounding it? What about the little guys who make something “bigger” but don’t have the voice to shout it out to the beer geekosphere? Although I’m not sure what’s driving them to make such monsters either. Probably simply a desire to have been the one to have created the strongest.

  4. Don’t worry. We kick your US arses all over town with Boxing Day and Easter Monday – holidays whose only purpose is to get you over the holiday the day before.

    You are probably right but (based on cousins and uncles and trips back to the old tartaned country) I just assume all Scots tuck their sweaters in their pants, love deep fried haggis and have really over the top anti-establishment senses of humour. BrewDog Nation does sell logo covered tuck-in-pants sweaters, don’t they?

  5. “The irony here is, for all of the bravado and boastfulness, BrewDog actually makes very simple, approachable and traditional beers that do not push the envelope of taste or flavor.”

    Are you joking?! BrewDog’s beers are the tastiest, most complex, flavoursome beers I’ve tasted.

    1. Assuming that you are not joking, compared to beers made in the United States and elsewhere around the world, the quoted passage remains true in my opinion. Compared to other British beers, BrewDog’s offerings definitely stand out. Not so much when compared to the global market.

  6. BrewDog continually experiment with different ingredients (see their latest blog entry, for example: and their beers are sought-after all over the world. Their brews are anything but traditional and are packed full of malt (on average 40 kilos per barrel), hops and flavour. I agree with you that their beers have more stand out when compared to other UK beers, while the US, in particular, has enjoyed great craft beer for a while. Even so, on a global stage, BrewDog’s beers are up there with the best.

    1. We’re going to have to disagree about this one. Like some well-known American brewers, there’s lots of hype and volume, leaving behind some very straight-forward and ordinary beers flavor-wise.

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